Eating insects or entomophagy—the technical term—is already in practice for over 2 billion people around the world, but making the transition for Americans might take more than some chocolate icing to sweeten the deal.
Harman Johar, Founder of World Entomophagy, says that the transition of using bugs as a viable form of protein in America is going to be “a lot like sushi” in terms of growing on the palate and becoming popular. Johar adds that there is a visual and psychological aspect to overcome for some people when eating insects.
Sushi did undergo a similar struggle to become as widespread in the U.S. When sushi finally came to Hollywood in the 1960s, it still took more than another decade before sushi restaurants took the rest of the country by storm.
The first hints of sushi becoming popular in the U.S. were in the 1950s after WWII in San Diego, when a full dinner cost $1.25. It was really the invention of the California roll in Los Angeles over 40 years ago that made the taste more amenable for the American palate by replacing raw tuna with avocado. American-style or fusion-type sushi really caused the culinary movement to expand to all areas of the country.
Foodies have moved various sources of protein from pests to prized taste creations for hundreds of years. Phil Torres, “TechKnow” contributor and entomologist, points out that insects are actually very similar to crustaceans. He says, “Looking back in their evolutionary history, there were a lot of crustaceans, and then one group within crustaceans adapted and evolved into the group we now know as insects.”
Even lobster was considered a trash food or fertilizer in the 17th century. Torres says, “It was shameful at that time to have to eat lobster—until the mid-1900s.” As lobster became more of a delicacy, its natural population has drastically dropped. However, Torres says he feels confident that, because of the way insects are farmed, their population will not be threatened as much as lobsters—even if there is a huge surge in eating insects.